Challenge #01174-C079: In His Hands

there is also the audio version (which has some additions) -- Anon Guest

Vivi couldn't remember the last time she had seen Arthur like this. Not even during the Unpleasant Time that had shattered her memories. He was cursing a streak. Pale and perspiring and shivering and occasionally retching. And driving with just one aim in mind. To get Out.

There was a nightmare, she had it a lot just after the Unpleasant time. Arthur hanging on to his left bicep with his right hand. Yelling at her to just drive. The smell of blood. And a voice. A voice she rarely heard when she was awake.

"I am doing what I can for both of you. Just focus on getting to the nearest hospital. I will take care of the rest."

And then it faded into real memory. Waking up in the hospital with no memory of the cave or the accident or someone called Lewis.

And now there were a lot more fragments coming to her mind. Fragments associated with that name. A large figure with a penchant for plum-coloured pants. A pink pompadour. A gentle giant who could lift her and Arthur to run away from... the bad things.

"Stop the car," said Vivi.

"He exploded, Vivi. That's a class one hazardous phantasm. And it has reality-bending powers."

"I remember Lewis."

Arthur's foot slammed on the brakes. "What?" Now he looked like he was facing his worst fear.

"Little bits are coming back. I'm sure it's because of our contact."

"I'm sure he nearly killed me."

"He didn't mean me any harm, I know it," said Vivi. "Maybe we can negotiate."

The resulting argument went around in circles until a suspiciously floating humanoid figure emerged from the darkness. Arthur reflexively attempted to get away, but the van was, once again, immobile and unresponsive.

"Vivi..." whispered the figure.

Mystery slid out of the van with her. standing guard by the rear bumper as she took slow and measured steps towards the ghost. "M-my name's Vivi," she said. "I'm pretty sure we had a misunderstanding at your house..."

"It's been so long, Vivi," said the ghost. He was wearing a human face, but his hair was still flamelike and his eyes... the sclera was black, and seemed hollow. His iris was glowing with the same pinkish-plum light of his hair.

This looks... familiar...

"I know you," she whispered. "I know I know you, I just..." Vaguely familiar... Almost unreal... "I can't reach it." Yet...

"I wasn't meant to die, Vivi," said the ghost. The heart on his chest was no longer gold. It was a pale blue, and cracked. Almost exactly like the one on the chest in the coffin in her nightmares... "I'm trapped."'s too soon to feel yet... "Of course I want to help. What do I do?"

Somewhere far away, Arthur was begging and whining. Crying. Endless apologies fell from his lips.

The locket floated towards her again. "Accept my heart. It was always yours."

The words struck through her like ice. But she couldn't reach why they did so. Close to my soul, yet so far away... Her hands reached out to catch the cracked locket, which flared gold the instant she had a grip.

Memories overwhelmed her. Flooding back in love and pain in equal amounts. Her own voice, telling the bleeding and howling Arthur that they had to go back.

Whispering to his body in the coffin. Holding his cold hand. "I'm going to go back there, someday."

Lewis. The ghost was Lewis. Some authorities had demolished the cave and flattened the entire area out. His death had been one too many, too obvious. Too outrageous. The place grew over with thorns, overnight. Even when cleared with fire. The promised mall and land development was never going to come, and all efforts to be rid of the thorns failed and failed again.

He was so close to her, now. His hand holding hers. His other hand coming so close to her face. He was oddly warm, now. But still chilly compared to life. Vivi shrank away.

Lewis retracted his hand. "Did I scare you? I never meant to--"

"JUST LOOK AT THOSE THINGS, THEY'RE HUGE!" Vivi blurted, snatching a hand back and covering her face with it. "You could smother me with them! They're bigger than my entire head!"

Lewis was smiling when she emerged. "Just like the first time we met," he chuckled.

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